The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Here it is, The Raven King (2016), the fourth and final book in Maggie Stiefvater‘s THE RAVEN CYCLE, which began with The Raven Boys and continued with The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue. And … it’s hard to know what to say. I’ve had mixed feelings throughout all four of the books, liking certain ideas and characters, but often getting a little fed up with the prose and dialogue, which sometimes felt too witty and/or flourished for its own good.
In the small Virginian town of Henrietta, a young private school boy called Richard Gansey has been searching for the lost burial place of Owen Glendower, a Welsh king, in the hopes that he might be granted a life-changing wish. Others have been caught up in his quest: the sardonic Ronan who can pull physical objects out of dreams, introverted Adam who has escaped a childhood of domestic abuse, and Blue, the daughter of a psychic who can amplify the abilities of others and is destined to kill her true love with a kiss.
Obviously, this book shouldn’t be read until the previous three are under your belt, as there is a surplus of subplots and supporting characters that need to be introduced and understood in order to grasp what happens throughout The Raven King. Stiefvater started this volume with plenty of story-threads in need of wrapping up, and though she gets through most of them, it’s often in quite ambiguous ways that require close reading in order to grasp their implications. As the title of the entire series suggests, the overarching story is quite cyclic in nature, and the author follows that theme to its logical (though still unexpected) conclusion.
In fact, it’s hard to say much without giving it all away. For those who have followed these characters throughout their five-year journey, there’s plenty to enjoy in terms of their personal character development and relationships with each other. For readers more intrigued by the complex mythology Stiefvater has built up — one involving Welsh kings and sentient forests and vast dreamscapes — there might be some disappointment, as a lot is left unexplained.
So it’s been an interesting, sometimes frustrating, but always worthwhile ride. Oftentimes the loaded prose could make me roll my eyes, but there was a sincerity to the characters and their individual quests that kept me reading, wanting to see how it would all pan out.
Apparently the entire saga is now in development to become a television series, which may very well heighten my enjoyment of it. The story has a beautiful setting with plenty of interesting ideas and characters throughout, so watching it on the screen might make some of the more ambiguous elements (those hidden behind Stiefvater’s dense writing style) clearer.